Over the Texas Hills to Pete’s House
Most of this trip is on quiet county roads of Texas, but food, water, and accommodations can be found along the way. During wildflower season, it is incredibly beautiful.
Bicycle Adventurers: I’m all alone on this trip, as usual.
When: Dec. 20–21, 2016
Accommodations: There is camping at Bastrop State Park, Buescher State Park, Smithville’s Riverbend Park campground, and a private campground at Rocky Hill Ranch. All are located at or just past the half way point.
Distance: I rode 118 miles in two days: 67 miles the first day, and 51 the next day. The last 10 miles of the first day are along a very hilly section.
Bonus tip for this adventure: The best thing about this Texas route is that it uses quiet county roads. And it passes through Bastrop and Smithville, so there are also plenty of restaurants and antique stores. The ride from Bastrop State Park to Buescher State Park along Texas Park Road 1C passes through the Lost Pines. This is very scenic and is part of Adventure Cycling’s Southern Tier, a cross-country bicycle route, so you might run into some long distance people. Many of the trees here were destroyed by fire a few years ago, but the forest is starting to grow back. The end point of this ride is in Shiner where you can visit the Spoetzel Brewery.
This is the map for day one.
For a Christmas gift, I bought a bike for my seven-year-old nephew, Pete, at Goodwill, cleaned, and painted it. To get Pete’s bike from Austin to Shiner, TX, I loaded it onto one of my trailers and headed out.
It was just above freezing when I left, but it warmed up quite a bit during the day. I was pretty loaded down with Pete’s bike strapped onto the trailer, making it a bit of a challenge. Dragging that loaded trailer was hard work, and it was slow going all day. In the end it took me 10 hours to go just 67 miles, although this includes breaks as well as breakdowns, including a flat rear tire.
I was running so far behind that the sun was setting when I was still on Texas Park Road 1C. I finally arrived in Smithville and stopped to eat at the Brookshire Brothers before riding to my campsite at Riverbend Park’s campground. Unfortunately, I turned too sharply trying to walk my bike and trailer away from where I had parked, and my rear spindle popped out, requiring me to disassemble the whole trailer to fix it.
Some points for anyone doing this part of the ride:
- This trip starts about four miles from Adventure Cycling’s new Texas Hill Country Loop route, so my route might make a nice side trip for someone wanting to see a little more of the area.
- The roads leading out of Austin here have bike lanes and are pretty easy to ride. After Manor, TX, the roads get even quieter until you are on the county roads, some of which are gravel.
- Not up to gravel? Highway 95 has wide shoulders and is ridable between Elgin and Bastrop.
- Bastrop has a nice town center with restaurants and antique stores.
- To get to Bastrop State Park take Highway 71, NOT Highway 21. See my map. This is much safer.
- Texas Park Road 1C costs $3 to ride. This road winds through the Lost Pines and is very hilly at first, but worth it. Park Road 1C is part of the Southern Tier.
I chose a campsite with trees so I could hang my Hennessy Hammock. I slept pretty well and got up early to break camp. And to keep the weight down, I did not bring cooking gear, so I headed into town for breakfast at a Mexican restaurant I always stop at.
The next part of the ride is very relaxing. The quiet county roads south of Smithville wind through the East Central Texas Plains. There aren’t any serious hills, and I didn’t see many people. One of my favorite spots is the little metal bridge south of FM 2237.
Dragging the trailer was pretty tiring, and when I arrived in Flatonia I was ready for a break. But when I stopped, the trailer’s rear spindle popped out of place again. I fixed the spindle and was ready for the last 20 miles, but it was already afternoon, so I decided to change plans and just ride Highway 95 to Moutlon, instead of taking the county roads.
I have done the Shiner GASP century ride a number of times, and I know this section of road well. By the time I got to Moulton, I was sick and tired of large trucks barreling down Highway 95. I looked at my map and chose some county roads to take me the rest of the way to Pete’s house. Some of them turned out to be gravel, but all are worth riding.
Pete was thrilled to see his new bike, and I was glad I was able to get it to him. This was another great overnight ride along some of my favorite roads.
Some points for anyone doing this part of the ride:
- The county roads between Smithville and Flatonia are all paved. Avoid Highway 95: it lacks a decent shoulder in many spots.
- Make sure you have plenty of water. There are no services between towns here.
- Highway 95 from Flatonia to Shiner has wide shoulders. South of Flatonia is it paved with asphalt, but once you cross into Lavaca County it turns to chipseal and has a lot of high-speed oil field traffic.
- The county roads between Flatonia and Shiner cross Texas blackland prairies. During the spring wildflower season, this area can be incredibly colorful.
- Many of the Lavaca County roads are gravel, so plan accordingly.
- Shiner has a brewery, a motel, and some small stores for supplies, but no major grocery store.
- Highway Alternate 90 runs through Shiner and has a wide shoulder. This, along with some county roads, could be used to get back to Gruene to reconnect to Adventure Cycling’s Texas Hill Country Loop.
This is the map for day two.
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